The Urban Food Hubs Solution: Building Capacity in Urban Communities

Sabine O’Hara


Access to affordable fresh food is an ongoing challenge for underserved urban neighborhoods across the United States. Several are designated food deserts with no access to a full-service grocery store within a one-mile radius. The Urban Food Hubs of the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES) of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) exemplify the University’s commitment to building capacity in the food desert neighborhoods of Washington D.C. The four components of the Urban Food Hubs are food production, food preparation, food distribution, and waste and water recovery ( They are designed to not only provide access to fresh food, but also to create jobs, improve public health, mitigate water management problems, and create urban resiliency. The contributions in economic, social/cultural, and physical/environmental impacts, and the five pillars of economic development that track the broader impacts of urban capacity building are described here. The Urban Food Hubs demonstrate the investment metropolitan universities could make to ensure the long-term economic, social, and environmental health of each community. The model is scalable and replicable in other metropolitan areas including those that experience high pressure on land-use and those experiencing decline. 


Capacity building, Urban food systems, Urban agriculture, Urban sustainability, Resilience, Community-based economic development

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